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AED training kicks in as Airman saves friend’s life

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Heart racing, hands shaking, and eyes teary, Senior Master Sgt. Brandy Sharp waited for the small machine to start up. “Start CPR,” the machine announced.

Seeing a few people around a fellow Airman on the ground at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Rambler Fitness Center, Sharp quickly ran to assist a few moments earlier. It was then she realized the person in need was a co-worker and friend, Master Sgt. Ernest Winston.

Winston, a 359th Medical Group medical technician, was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest.

“I (squeezed his hand) and tried to get him to respond to my voice. I tried everything I could think of to get him to respond,” Sharp said. “He was moving very unnaturally up to this point, then he stopped all movement. He was not responding.”

Training kicked in for the 359th Medical Support Squadron superintendent. Since she had attended multiple trainings over the years on how to use an automated external defibrillator, she knew exactly what to do.

An AED is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart, according to the American Heart Association. The shock can stop an irregular heart rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest, an abrupt loss of heart function that can lead to death within minutes. AEDs are portable, easy to use and feature voice prompts to guide anybody, even non-medical personnel, through the process of saving a life.

“Once the (electrode pads) were placed, it told me exactly what to do and when to do it,” said Sharp, a medical administrator.

Before she could complete the first round of CPR, the Randolph Fire Department arrived and took over.

“I was extremely grateful (to help),” she said.

The 359th Medical Group’s leadership is also grateful for Sharp’s heroic and decisive actions.

“Who better to have with you than somebody familiar with (lifesaving procedures) and willing to jump in first,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Pohle, 359th MDG Deputy Commander and 359th Medical Operations Squadron commander.

“I am very thankful that she happened to be the one at the scene. It’s awesome.”

These are the moments when fast and decisive action can save lives, he continued.

“I’m glad I’m getting one of my guys back. Like any other unit, he is part of the family. Losing any part of your family would have been just horrific. As soon as we found out he was conscious and talking, we knew we got him back. It was huge,” Pohle said.